FoodTravel & Day Trips

This 88-Year-Old Santa Cruz Treat Feels Like Eating a Mouthful of Sand

If you head to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk this summer, you’ll find something unique–an 88 year old ice cream treat that’s designed to feel like eating a mouthful of sand.

Called the Sandae, this particular treat has been offered up at the Santa Cruz boardwalk since 1935.

You can get one at several of the original ice cream stands along the boardwalk.

The Sandae is a combination of “sundae” and “sandy.” To that end, this antique treat is designed to make you feel like you’re eating a mouthful of sand.

Sand in Your Mouth, Since 1935

Basically, the Sandae is a square of chocolate malt ice cream (we’re going old school here from the start) sandwiched between two graham crackers on a stick. The whole thing is dipped in molten chocolate.

But it’s the last part of the recipe that makes the treat stand out. With the chocolate still molten, the Sandae is dipped into finely crushed almonds.

These aren’t the big chunks of almonds you might find at Baskin Robbins. Instead, they’re super finely ground. That makes eating them feel like, well, eating a bunch of sand!

A sign at the boardwalk explains that this is deliberate. “The name comes from the unique topping, a dusting of crushed almonds to resemble sand,” the sign says.

The bar’s sandy appearance and mouthfeel, in other words, is a feature, not a bug! Tourists visiting the boardwalk have apparently been enjoying this treat since before the 2nd World War.

On a recent visit to Santa Cruz, I tried one of these unique bars. I can verify that eating one does, indeed, feel like munching on a mouth full of sand!

The redeeming quality is that the sand is sweet and delicious, and is backed up by crumbly graham crackers and the tasty malted ice cream.

The whole thing crumbles and shatters as you bite into it–there’s no way to eat this vintage treat elegantly! You just have to dive in and enjoy the drippy, sandy experience.

I always love trying vintage Bay Area (and beyond) treats, so I’m glad that I tried out the Sandae. I’m not sure if its popularity is down to its taste, or the amusing novelty of the treat (and its storied boardwalk history.)

It was a fun thing to try out. Next time, though, I’ll probably get a frozen banana–also on offer at the boardwalk since 1935, and a lot less grainy to munch on.

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Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

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